United States forward Christian Pulisic. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The United States qualified for the 2022 Fifa World Cup after finishing third in their qualification group. USA fans will be looking forward to their games in Qatar even more after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, breaking their streak of reaching six World Cup Finals in a row.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter will know that he has a young team lacking in international tournament experience, the side only just scraped automatic qualification due to their superior goal difference to Costa Rica. With an average roster age of 24 during the 2022 World Cup qualification stage, it was a priority for Stewart to give his young players plenty of minutes, giving them individual experience. His aim was for the team can to gel and play coherently as Stewart looks to form a side that will challenge for future tournaments.
The USA’s current group of players feature fast forwards that can hit teams on the counter attack such as Christian Pulisic and the skilful Timothy Weah. In the USA’s World Cup games, the side will be told to play with confidence and show no fear as they won't have heavy pressure placed on them due to the young roster that for many will be playing in their first World Cup.
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USA Player to watch: Ricardo Pepi
Augsburg attacker Ricardo Pepi was the highest scoring United States player in MLS during the 2021/22 season. The former Dallas player scored 13 goals in the previous campaign, placing him 12th amongst the top goalscorers. This enticed Bundesliga side Augsburg to shell out $16.71M for the 19-year-old, making him the club’s record signing.
Since the young talent’s move to the top tier of German soccer in January, Pepi has featured 11 times, starting four of those matches, with his debut coming against Hoffenheim off the bench when he was just 18.
During the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, the forward was an important asset to the USA, making 10 appearances and providing six goal contributions, scoring and assisting three times each. The wonderkid will be excited to play in his first major international tournament for his country and will want to show the world his potential.
England qualified for their seventh World Cup in a row by topping their qualification group. The Three Lions went undefeated, winning eight games and drawing twice. Impressively, England was the highest scoring team out of the European qualifying nations, as Gareth Southgate’s side amassed 39 goals and proved to be a tricky team to score against as they conceded just three times.
Southgate will enter his third international tournament as England boss and will be hoping to take the team one step further by winning silverware having been runners up in the 2020 European Championships and finishing fourth at the 2018 World Cup. The one-time World Cup winners will be desperate to bring joy back to the nation as the 1966 team did.
The current team boasts plenty of quality players who performed superbly during the last two international tournaments such as Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Harry Maguire (whose international form has been far better than his club form recently). This crop of players will know time is not on their side and will want to bring football home while they are in the prime of their playing careers.
England player to watch: Harry Kane
Harry Kane has established himself as one of the most lethal goalscorers on the planet. Since his breakthrough season for Tottenham Hotspur in 2014/15, he has scored 183 goals in England’s top flight, making him the fifth highest scoring player in Premier League history. After a slow start to the 2021/22 season – when Kane failed to score in Spurs’ opening six league games – the forward ended the campaign on 17 goals. The striker is just as lethal for his country as he is for his club; since his England debut in March Kane has scored 50 goals in just 71 games. The England captain is only three goals away from reaching the country’s top goalscorer Wayne Rooney and will surpass the England legend.
At the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane was the competition’s top goalscorer with six goals, including a fantastic hat trick against Panama. He later scored four goals at the 2020 European Championships when England finished runners up. Kane will be hungry to win a trophy, will be on penalty duty and take most direct free-kicks. He'll almost certainly get goals.